The Wilcats are 5-1 with their only loss coming to North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Tubby Smith has his Kentucky team ranked 10th in the nation, and has dominated the Hoosiers in the recent series.
Kentucky owns a slight 26-21 lead in the all-time series, but as of late, it hasn't been much of a contest. Kentucky has beaten the Hoosiers four years in a row, as Mike Davis is 0-4 against the rivals from the south. The Hoosiers last win came in 1999 with AJ Guyton leading the charge, but Kentucky has won 9 of the last 10 meetings. Indiana holds an even worse record in Louisville facing the Cats, going just 4-8 in the neutral city. The last times the Hoosiers won the series in Louisville was on December 15, 1975, during one of the Hoosiers undefeated seasons.
Smith is one of the top coaches in the country, and always has his Wildcats ready to play. Smith has won 79% of his games at Kentucky even though they consistently play one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
This years Kentucky team is lead by senior Chuck Hayes. Hayes is a presence inside despite being only 6-6. He is quick with his step and can take advantage of his large frame to pull down a ton of rebounds. He is averaging 11.5 points per game and 10 rebounds as the lone senior starter. Forward Kelenna Azubuike and G Patrick Sparks, both juniors, also average double digits for Kentucky, averaging 15.7 and 11.3 respectively. Kentucky is similar to Indiana in that they rely on freshmen for a lot of minutes, and usually start a pair of them. Center Randolph Morris and G Rajon Rondo have started every game for Kentucky as freshmen, and have contributed early. Morris is averaging just less than 10 points pet game with just under 5 rebounds. His large 6-10 frame will develop into an SEC powerhouse over the years.
The Hoosiers match up fairly well with Kentucky, as the Wildcats don't have a ton of size inside. Morris is the only starting big man. Hayes is 6-6, and Azubuike is 6-5, so the Hoosiers will not have to worry about overexposing their interior too early unless they get into foul trouble trying to handle the quick Kentucky team. The only real problem inside for Indiana might be big 7-3 center Shagari Alleyne. Alleyne hasn't seen a ton of looks this year, but his size is amazing, and once he can use it to his advantage, he could be unstoppable. For now though, he is a bit uncoordinated, and doesn't get open as much as Tubby Smith would like. When he does get the ball, he shoots nearly 70% from the field, so the Hoosiers will have to deny him the ball.
The Wildcats are a fairly deep team, with 8 members averaging more than 12 minutes per game. Indiana will have to establish the tone of the game to stay with Kentucky, because they don't have the depth to run with the Wildcats. If the Hoosiers are to be successful Saturday, then Patrick Ewing Jr must stay out of foul trouble.
Ewing has gotten into trouble in each of the last two games, and teams have been exploiting the Hoosiers lack of depth on the interior. He has to avoid the stupid fouls, and play smart to stay in the game. He will be a key to Indiana staying with the Wildcats, as most people aren't giving them a chance.
The Hoosiers will also have to shoot better than the .348 they are averaging from the field, and the just .294 from behind the arc. Indiana is also costing themselves at the line to the tune of 67.4%. The Hoosiers will continue to get beat on the boards, with their lack of depth and experience in the post. Indiana is giving up 7 rebounds a game to their opponents, and must find a way to take away some second chance points.
IU has handled the ball fairly well this year however, with only 12.8 turnovers per game; Indiana is not killing itself by giving up the ball. They are killing themselves with shot selection however, and need to be more selective and find a good open shot instead of a long three. Indiana needs to rely more on interior scoring and baseline jumpers than the three pointer, because those shots are killing the team.
The old saying is "live by the three, dye by the three". Indiana has only been dying by the three. The Hoosiers are 0-2 on the season when they hit at least eight three pointers. The team has relied too much on the quick three instead of working for a better, higher percentage shot, and it isn't getting it done.
For Indiana against Kentucky for the first time in the Mike Davis era, the Hoosiers will have to play better than they have all year. Indiana will be trying to erase the memory of last years 80-41 loss in Indianapolis. Coach Davis tries not to think about that loss, saying, "It hasn't crossed my mind until this morning when we started talking about Kentucky. We have had so many tough games, you have to look at what you have in front of you. That game was probably over from the beginning. We never showed up to play that game last year."
Davis also feels that the players are not letting last years game affect them. He said, "Nothing embarrasses the new generation. Nothing embarrasses these guys. It is just a matter of us preparing them to play these games." No matter how the kids feel, the Hoosier nation was embarrassed by last years game, and if Indiana doesn't start winning some games, people are really going to start pointing fingers. The Indiana Hoosiers and Mike Davis are in desperate need of a win on Saturday.
Gametime is set for 1:30 PM eastern time, and will be aired on CBS. If you can not watch on TV, you can always listen on the IU radio network with Don Fischer broadcasting. The Hoosiers are 2-3 on the year, with the 9th best record in the Big Ten, leading only Purdue and Northwestern.
Indiana vs. Kentucky
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